Jessica Ahlquist is a high school student and atheist who volunteered to act as plaintiff in a case against her high school, which for several years has hung a school prayer on a banner in its gym. I’ve written about her before, and from the public’s perspective, her case has been quiet for a while now.
The story linked above has a nice little poll in it:
Do you agree with the court order for the prayer mural at Cranston West be removed?
Yes – 261 (84%)
No – 48 (15%)
I’m amazed to see the numbers like that, considering how strongly opposed most of Jessica’s town was to her actions. Then again, this is the internet, so I doubt it’s just local folks voting. Disregard the madness in the comments on that story; three cheers for the First Amendment! Go show Jessica some love on Facebook.
I can’t believe I missed these great bits from the judge:
Lagueux states that “no amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that.”
“The Prayer concludes with the indisputably religious closing: ‘Amen;’ a Hebrew word used by Jews, Christians and Muslims to conclude prayers. In between, the Prayer espouses values of honesty, kindness, friendship and sportsmanship. While these goals are commendable, the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose.”
Early last month, PZ Myers over at Pharyngula posted a link to a survey by a radical anti-gay group (maybe it’s just a single person? I can’t tell) asking silly questions about whether the government should force companies to hire gay people, and things like that. To fill out the survey, you had to enter an e-mail address, so I put in one of my throwaway ones in the hope that I’d get some entertainment out of the things they send to their mailing list.
We can always count on Republican politicians to give us clarity! Today, the GOP presidential candidates (sans Rick Perry, who was apparently off fighting wildfires) met in South Carolina to hold a forum where they shared their views on various subjects. Newt Gingrich said something that has had remarkably little coverage in the mainstream press, save for this one story:
At a GOP candidates’ forum in South Carolina, Gingrich maintained that everyone, especially a president, needs God’s help in “a world where evil always lurks.” He added that someone who faces serious issues without praying “would be a person who totally misunderstood the nature of life and who would be dangerous holding a major office.”
Apparently, it’s still okay to say stuff like this about atheists. Well, then, I guess we can just ignore Article 6, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution!
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Good to know you can disregard the Constitution as much as you like and still be considered a serious candidate so long as you believe in a god.
The New York state Senate is currently mulling over a bill to legalize gay marriage in New York, finally bringing marriage equality to one of the most famously liberal states in America. There’s just one little nit to pick first: religious groups, like the Catholic church, are insisting that lawmakers write exemptions into the law allowing them to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
I say we should give them what they want.
Despite the stereotype of hard-core conservative Catholicism, recent polling shows that as many as 43% of American Catholics support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, with another 31% supporting civil unions that are equal in all but name. Imagine nearly half of the Catholic population suddenly being legally at odds with their own church. This organization that they’ve made such a central part of their identity suddenly becomes a caricature of itself, sticking dogmatically to old, hateful moral ideas they’ve long since discarded.
And it’s not just the Catholics. Part of what keeps people in organized religions is the idea that they’re a part of some great force of moral authority. Hundreds of thousands of liberal Christians officially ally themselves with anti-gay groups without even recognizing it. But when a gay Christian couple approaches their church to ask them to perform a marriage ceremony, only to find themselves tossed aside as immoral garbage because of the bigoted teachings of the larger church, they’ll become disillusioned with the body of the church and may start to question the claims of authority it makes on other issues.
So as I said before, let the bigoted religious groups refuse to perform marriage ceremonies. It’ll be a good way to sort out the hateful fools from the more reasonable folks, and it’ll push people to leave organized religions and thus force church officials to come to grips with just how out of touch they are with the rest of humanity.
At Cranston West High School in Cranston, Rhode Island, a mostly innocuous banner has hung in the school gym for several decades. The banner, titled “School Prayer,” exhorts “Our Heavenly Father” to make students desire to improve themselves in a number of ways. In full, the banner reads:
Our Heavenly Father, Grant us each day the desire to do our best, To grow mentally and morally as well as physically, To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers, To be honest with ourselves as well as with others, Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win, Teach us the value of true friendship, Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West. Amen.